What do beef jerky, wine, jewelry, shaving products, ingredients for tonight’s dinner and pet toys all have in common? Each of them can now be accessed as a specially curated monthly delivery, in a package that arrives automatically at your door, no reordering required. Subscription boxes, as they’re called, are a growing trend in e-commerce for all sorts of products, and it’s not hard to see why.
A look inside the box
Why should your company take a second look at subscription boxes? If you can convince consumers to sign up for a regular shipment from your business, that’s great news for your bottom line. However, the benefits go far beyond a single figure on a spreadsheet. Take a look at the power a subscription box holds:
1. Gain customer loyalty in an exciting new way
“One of the most difficult parts of competing in e-commerce is that it’s so competitive,” says Kevin Chung, a marketing specialist advisor at FedEx with a focus on e-commerce relationships. In an increasingly crowded online marketplace, face-to-face interactions are impossible and repeat business is rarely a guarantee. Offering subscriptions, Chung explains, means that “you continue to have a relationship with a customer.”
2. Benefit from a steady stream of business
It’s natural for a company’s activity to ebb and flow with the holidays, but embracing a subscription model allows you to anticipate and understand your needs ahead of time and to a far greater degree. “It’s very predictable,” Chung says. “You can manage your shipping costs and all your expenses and the experience because you know [how often] this person is going to get a package. And you also know the purchasing habits this person has.”
3. Turn customer loyalty into more opportunities
More than just a recurring source of income, a subscription-based model lets your brand get its foot in the door. If you fulfill a consumer’s needs in one area for a long time, they’re more likely to remember your name for other purchases later. “It continues the opportunity for you to interact with that customer,” Chung says.
4. Grow your business
Just look at Blue Apron. Founded in 2012, the startup aims to make home cooking convenient by mailing its subscribers a delicious recipe — along with all of the ingredients to make it — three times a week. Blue Apron now mails 3 million meals a month, and is valued at $2 billion.1
5. Offer your customers an experience they want
People appreciate subscription boxes because they provide a service perfectly situated to meet the needs of the modern consumer. Plus, when the box is delivered to your doorstep, it feels like your own personal gift.Escape Monthly co-founder Jameson Morris reported in a recent blog post that a successful subscription box helps online shoppers do at least one of four things:
- Discover new products
- Benefit from expert curation
- Access items at a great value
- Save time and money
As far as convenience goes, you can allow customers to sign up for recurring shipments of items they know they’ll be using in predictable amounts, like diapers or cat food.
On the discovery and curation side of the equation, keep your customers engaged by offering an assortment of surprise items each month. It’s a great opportunity to let them try out new products they might not even know they love yet. If you can meet these needs, the result will be some very happy customers.
6. Use your size to your advantage
If you find your niche, you don’t need to compete with the e-commerce giants. “Everyone wants to compete with Amazon,” Chung says. “But [large companies] absolutely do not have the level of personalization that these smaller companies can bring.” The tailor-made, customer-focused approach of a subscription box plays right into a small business’ strong suit, he says. “The most important thing is the personalized experience. The packaging, the way it’s delivered, the handwritten notes, and the little touches will be retentive to a certain segment of customers. Experience matters. And any way you can differentiate your experience from the bigger players, you’re going to stand out.”
Sending a sampling of items or specialty retail in a subscription box? Then the extra touches you make to the packaging, wrapping and personalization is especially important.
No extra coding needed
A few years ago, you might have been required to build your own online infrastructure or hire a programmer. Thankfully, specially designed subscription box platforms like Subbly and Cratejoy have arrived on the scene. For a fee, each of these websites provides templates, customized designs, analytics and built-in subscription-based billing.
Small business, big thinking
For more winning online retail tips, check out FedEx® E-Commerce Solutions.
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1Kosoff, Maya, “Blue Apron, a startup that’s a godsend for lazy cooks, is now valued at $2 billion,” June 9, 2015. Business Insider.